Strawberry shortcake (with chocolate chip shortcake)

Strawberry (chocolate chip) shortcake

Strawberry (chocolate chip) shortcake

Hey, kids! It’s Saturday storytelling time! As I’m sure you recall, this means that along with your daily recipe and song, you’ll get a story, too! Each week, everybody in our small salon of auteurs (well, generally me and one or two other people) writes a story based on a found photograph. This week’s photo might be my favorite yet, I think it is ridiculously beautiful. But maybe I say that every week. If you’d like to write a story about it, and I hope you do, send me a copy and I’ll post it here, or send me a link if you have somewhere of your own to post it.

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Here’s a funny story about my story this week. Isaac asked me to read what I was writing, so I read the first paragraph. It reminded him of a folk story, which he told to me, and which I wrote into the story. I’d never heard it before, but it was oddly perfect for the direction the photo was taking me. I always think that the exact moment that you write something changes the writing completely, and this is proof of that. If he hadn’t been sitting next to me, if I’d tried to get it done while he was at school, if he wasn’t the sort of boy to ask a person to read what they were writing, my story would have been completely different. Better or worse? Who can say!

Strawberry (chocolate chip) shortcake

Strawberry (chocolate chip) shortcake

Well, is there anything better than strawberries and whipped cream? Yes! Strawberries and chocolate and whipped cream. These shortcakes are more like a cookie than a biscuit. Like a big, soft chocolate chip cookie that you pile high with strawberries and cream. Because the shortcake itself is fairly sweet, you don’t need to sweeten the strawberries or cream that much–I just tossed the berries with a little maple syrup to make them saucy.

Here’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe with Up Above My Head, and if you read the story you’ll know why!

CROW

The thing about a baby bird is you can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl. When they’re older, sometimes they look different. Usually it’s the boys that are crazy fancy and colorful and pretty. But some birds, you never know. My crow, I’ll never know. I call him a him, cause that’s what he seems like, but I’ll never know for sure. And some people say that no crows are pretty—not the girls or the boys. But I think they’re all beautiful. I see the blue and green and purple in their pretty black feathers. I see in their eyes how smart and funny they are.
I found him on a cold day in a slow spring. It was damp and chilly, but I saw things flying in the air. Small glowing specks—bugs or seeds or dust or who-knows-what flying like crazy all over in the air, catching the little bit of light. Some things don’t care if spring is slow and cold. They don’t get dampened, these spirits. They go about their business according to some schedule. We’ll never know about that. They just float on in their dizzy way. And maybe they regret it when the world is so cold they can’t survive, but at least they’ve floated for a moment.
So I found him on a cold morning. He must have fallen out of his nest, but I didn’t see any nest up in the bricks and the fire escapes, like crazy trees, like a weird metal forest. I’d been chased back there, of course, like all the other times. That first time they’d caught me, and they were as scared and surprised as I was. They didn’t know why they chased me, and they didn’t know what to do with me when they caught me. Like the dog that finally catches the squirrel and just drops it cause they don’t know what else to do with it. Like that. So they hurt me, cause they didn’t know what else to do with me.
I cried like crazy, but I stopped by the time I got home. I knew my grandma wouldn’t like it. She could tell, of course, she could tell I’d been crying, and she told me to man up. She wiped the dirt and blood and tears off my face, though. She spat in her soft old yellow handkerchief and washed my face clean. I could tell she was thinking about crying, too. I could tell she had heavy tears pricking the back of her eyes, but she didn’t cry.
Then we watched some TV. We sat in her old room, on her bed, with the yellow smell of her all around, and the only light all that flickered from the TV in a cold blue moving glow. And the window open just a little so you could smell cool fresh rain mix in with the warm powdery smell of grandma.
There was a woman on the TV playing guitar like a man. I thought she was really pretty and great. She sang about music in the air up above our heads and I really liked that idea. Music flying in the air, like birds or bugs or seeds in spring, even in the rain. My grandma got sleepy, her head fell to her chest and then she picked it up and then it fell again. She held my hand in her strong hands and pushed all the muscles with her strong fingers, and she said, “pretty pretty hands, such pretty hands, poor boy.” And then she fell asleep.
So one time I was chased, and they’d pretty much stopped trying to catch me, cause you can only hurt the same person so many times before it gets pretty boring for everyone concerned. But I ran anyway, cause that’s what I did, and they chased any way, cause that’s what they did. And they yelled stuff about me being a fairy, which is just a person that can glow and fly, so who cares, really.
I ran up the fire escape, even though they’d pretty much all disappeared, and that’s when I saw the ugliest thing I ever seen. Pink and grey and tufted with crazy black feathers. With a freakishly long beak for its size and angry beady eyes. There was nobody around. No birds, no people, nothing. Just the cold damp drip drip drip all around us. I picked It up in my hands and it felt so strange. Prickly and oddly heavy with a crazy beating heart. It looked cross as hell, but I swear to god it settled in. It waggled its scrawny feathered butt and settled into my hand like it had found a home and it had nowhere else to go. I nearly cried but I didn’t want to scare it.
I took it up to my room. I put it in a box with one of my t-shirts in it. It looked weak and I didn’t know what to feed it and I was scared so I showed my grandma. She frowned and said, “Well, the damn thing’s probably going to die, so don’t get attached to it,” and took a big drag on her cigarette and coughed. But she showed me how to set it up with a light bulb to keep it warm, and she helped me feed it, and she didn’t know it but I slept with it warmed next to me in bed.
Well the damn thing didn’t die, he grew crazy big, with fine shiny feathers and a ridiculously long beak and angry, funny eyes. He stayed by me all the time. I let him fly out the window, and I was scared to lose him, but he always came back to me. My grandma pretended to hate him, but sometimes when we watched TV she’d let him eat popcorn right out of her hand. He laughed like my grandma—hoarse and raucous. They laughed together.
My grandma told me a story about a crow with rainbow feathers and a pretty voice. It flew to the sun to bring some warmth to make the spring come along faster, but it got burnt. Its feathers turned black and its voice grew hoarse. But somebody felt sorry for it and said it could still have a rainbow in its black feathers if you looked at it the right way. And said nobody would chase it any more. My grandma said that’s what the damn bird got for being so pretty, dumb bird.
When my grandma gave me her watch I got scared. It was a really pretty watch—thin and elegant. I’d always loved that thing. But it wasn’t a boy’s watch and she knew it would be trouble for me, and she wouldn’t have given it to me if everything was normal. She frowned fit to break her face when she put it on me, tutting and shaking her head, clucking sadly like some old crow.
I was scared to think about why she wouldn’t need it any more. I was scared to think about who would take a boy with pretty hands and his grandma’s watch and a pet crow. We went out back and sat at the top of the fire escape, in the high metal trees. We looked down on our world. I felt his familiar impossible light-heavy weight on me. I felt his sharp claws on my arm, his sharp eyes on my face. I wanted to be with him forever. He pecked at the watch—he liked shiny pretty things. We sat and listened to spring and change come slanting towards us, coldly, slowly, surely.

THE RECIPE

6 T butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cream the butter with the powdered sugar, then stir in the egg. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the vanilla and milk, and mix till you have a thick smooth batter. Stir in the chocolate chips. Chill for at least half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350. Drop the batter by large round spoonfuls onto the tray, leaving at least an inch around each. With clean wet hands or a spoon, shape the mounds of batter into flat circles about 1 inch high, and make a little dent in the center–so they’ll be like bowls.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, till they’re starting to brown on the bottom, and they’re firm to the touch.

Let cool.

Top each with strawberries hulled, chopped and tossed with a little maple syrup and whipped cream flavored with a little vanilla and a pinch of powdered sugar.

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2 thoughts on “Strawberry shortcake (with chocolate chip shortcake)

  1. Hi Claire,

    I found your blog by following your comment on npr this morning. You have a really interesting blog – and I have really enjoyed reading through some of the posts & listening to the music you link to in those posts.

    You write really well – this story was really well written… but I wish it wasn’t so sad. I want this kid to be happy – I want to adopt him & keep him from being hurt – it made me tear up. Maybe he will grow up just as sweet & sensitive as he sounds & not get hurt so badly as to turn cruel himself. Maybe the crow will teach him to be brave & self-confident as crows usually are & he will grow up to be a happy, content young man.

    I am glad I found your blog though – I look forward to reading more in here.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read and respond. I’m not sure why it turned out so sad. I hope you’re right and the crow will teach him to be brave and self-confident. I love the way you stated that!!

      Thank you!

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